Autism Spectrum Disorder
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
PTSD is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. It's normal to have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after this type of event. If symptoms last more than a few months, it may be PTSD.
The prevalence of ASD in the U.S. ranges from 1 in 40 kids to 1 in 54 kids.
A March 2020 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that evaluated medical information from patients throughout the U.S. Researchers found that 1 in 54 children age 8 had ASD.
In a 2018 study in Pediatrics that evaluated 43,000 parent-reported survey responses, researchers found that 1 in 40 kids between ages 3 to 17 had ASD.
Both of those autism statistics are higher than the amount of ASD cases estimated worldwide, which is 1 in 160 children, according to the World Health Organization.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
What is Autism (Part 1) ? | Written by an Autistic Person. It goes over what is included in autism and what are its major types?
ARTICLES ABOUT ASD
This Is What It's Like to Live With Autism
By Tehrene Firman
"There's a range of how it affects each individual's communication and behavior: Some people are so high-functioning that it's hard to tell they have any challenges, while others need much more support in their daily lives. It's difficult to put yourself in the shoes of someone with autism and fully understand what they're going through, but getting a better idea of what it's like to have the disorder will help."
What It's Like Being Openly Autistic in the Workplace
By Hannah West
"In recent years, there has been a significant increase in discourse surrounding neurodiversity and inclusion in the workplace. With greater speed and scale than ever before, companies are incorporating neuro-inclusion into their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategies, recognizing the value that neurodivergent team members can bring to the table. While this is a positive development, there is still a need for a more nuanced understanding of the experiences of individuals on the autism spectrum, and a comprehensive view of how it can present in working individuals."
What I Need as an Autistic Woman Navigating the Health Care System
"Complicated conversations and unpleasant procedures are hard for anyone. What I found as I looked around me throughout my life at family and friends (and strangers on the internet) was that other people seemed to be able to handle these unpleasantries in a different way. Throughout my whole life I have not been able to complete a medical appointment 'successfully.' After many years of trying to punish myself for this, I started to ask whether it could be related to my autism. The book 'Spectrum Women' has a whole section on autistic women and medical situations. This was the first time I saw that I wasn’t alone in my experiences, and that it was the system that didn’t know how to treat me properly, not me who was 'too weak' for the system."
The Harvard University researchers found that autistic behavior is associated with a breakdown in the signaling pathway used by a major inhibitory neurotransmitter called GABA.
"This is the first time, in humans, that a neurotransmitter in the brain has been linked to autistic behavior. This theory -- that the GABA signaling pathway plays a role in autism -- has been shown in animal models, but until now we never had evidence for it actually causing autistic differences in humans," study leader Caroline Robertson said in a university news release.
The study was published Dec. 17 in the journal Current Biology.
In the study, Robertson's team used brain imaging plus a visual test known to trigger different reactions in the brains of people with autism and those without the disorder. They believe that similar tests could be used to screen young children for autism.
While GABA has long been suspected of being a factor in autism, there was no proof until now, the researchers said.
"Autism is often described as a disorder in which all the sensory input comes flooding in at once, so the idea that an inhibitory neurotransmitter was important fit with the clinical observations," Robertson said.
'In addition, people with autism often have seizures -- there is a 20 to 25 percent comorbidity [when two conditions are present in a patient] between autism and epilepsy -- and we think seizures are runaway excitation in the brain, she added.
While the finding improves understanding of autism and could lead to new treatments that target the GABA pathway, it is only one piece of the autism puzzle, the researchers said.
"I'm excited about this study, but there are many other molecules in the brain, and many of them may be associated with autism in some form," Robertson said. "We were looking at the GABA story, but we're not done screening the autistic brain for other possible pathways that may play a role. But this is one, and we feel good about this one."
Two autism experts were cautiously optimistic about the findings.
'The authors make extraordinary claims about the role of GABA in autism," said Alycia Halladay, chief science officer for the Autism Science Foundation. "However, if this theory holds true in other independent studies, it might lead to new ways to help some of the symptoms of autism spectrum disorders."
Dr. Matthew Lorber directs child and adolescent psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. He noted that "the causes of autism have remained a mystery with many disproven theories since the late 1930s. There has been a lot of recent discussion about the role GABA plays, and this most recent study is showing less GABA activity in the brain of humans with autism."
He said the new research may be an added piece to the puzzle, but the overall origins of autism remain elusive.
"Although we do not have an answer to the actual cause of this disease, it is further evidence that the mystery of autism may have connections to the neurotransmitter GABA, and should motivate further research into this part of the scientific mystery," Lorber said.
HOW DOES TREATMENT HELP?
"There’s no cure for autism, but several approaches can help to improve social functioning, learning, and quality of life for both children and adults with autism. Remember that autism is a spectrum-based condition. Some people may need little to no support, while others may require intensive therapy.
It’s also important to keep in mind that a lot of the research related to support for autism focuses on children. This is largely because existing research suggests that support is most effective when started before age 3. Still, many of the options designed for children can help adults as well.
Applied behavior analysis
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is one of the most widely used autism treatments for both adults and children. It refers to a series of techniques designed to encourage positive behaviors using a reward system.
There are several types of ABA, including:
Discrete trial training. This technique uses a series of trials to encourage step-by-step learning. Correct behaviors and answers are rewarded, and mistakes are ignored.
Early intensive behavioral intervention. Children, generally under the age of five, work one-on-one with a therapist or in a small group. It’s usually done over the course of several years to help a child develop communication skills and reduce problematic behaviors, including aggression or self-harm.
Pivotal response training. This is a strategy used in someone’s everyday environment that teaches pivotal skills, such as the motivation to learn or initiate communication.
Verbal behavior intervention. A therapist works with someone to help them understand why and how humans use language to communicate and get things they need.
Positive behavior support. This involves making environmental changes to the home or classroom in order make good behavior feel more rewarding.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that can be effective autism treatment for children and adults. During CBT sessions, people learn about the connections between feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. This may help to identify the thoughts and feelings that trigger negative behaviors.
A 2010 review suggests that CBT is particularly beneficial in helping people with autism manage anxiety. It can also help them to better recognize emotions in others and cope better in social situations.
Social skills training
Social skills training (SST) is a way for people, especially children, to develop social skills. For some people with autism, interacting with others is very difficult. This can lead to many challenges over time.
Someone undergoing SST learns basic social skills, including how to carry on a conversation, understand humor, and read emotional cues. While it’s generally used in children, SST may also be effective for teenagers and young adults in their early 20s.
Sensory integration therapy
People with autism are sometimes unusually affected by sensory input, such as sight, sound, or smell. Social integration therapy is based on the theory that having some of your senses amplified makes it hard to learn and display positive behaviors.
SIT tries to even out a person’s response to sensory stimulation. It’s usually done by an occupational therapist and relies on play, such as drawing in sand or jumping rope.
Occupational therapy (OT) is a field of healthcare that focuses on teaching children and adults the fundamental skills they need in everyday life. For children, this often includes teaching fine motor skills, handwriting skills, and self-care skills.
For adults, OT focuses on developing independent living skills, such as cooking, cleaning, and handling money.
Speech therapy teaches verbal skills that can help people with autism communicate better. It’s usually done with either a speech-language pathologist or occupational therapist.
It can help children improve the rate and rhythm of their speech, in addition to using words correctly. It can also help adults improve how they communicate about thoughts and feelings.
There aren’t any medications specifically designed to treat autism. However, several medications used for other conditions that may occur with autism might help with certain symptoms.
Medications used to help manage autism fall into a few main categories:
Antipsychotics. Some newer antipsychotic medications may help with aggression, self-harm, and behavioral problems in both children and adults with autism. The FDA recently approved the use of risperidone (Risperdal) and apripiprazole (Abilify) to treat symptoms of autism.
Antidepressants. While many people with autism take antidepressants, researchers aren’t yet sure whether they actually help with autism symptoms. Still, they may be useful for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and anxiety in people with autism.
Stimulants. Stimulants, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin), are generally used to treat ADHD, but they may also help with overlapping autism symptoms, including inattention and hyperactivity. A 2015 review looking at the use of medication for autism treatment suggests that about half of children with autism benefit from stimulants, though some experience negative side effects.
Anticonvulsants. Some people with autism also have epilepsy, so antiseizure medications are sometimes prescribed.
What about alternative treatments?
There are countless alternative autism treatments that people try. However, there isn’t much conclusive research backing up these methods, and it’s unclear whether they’re effective. Some of them, such as chelation therapy, may also do more harm than good.
Still, autism is a wide-ranging condition that causes a variety of symptoms. Just because something doesn’t work for one person doesn’t mean it won’t help another. Work closely with a doctor when looking into alternative treatments. A good doctor can help you navigate the research surrounding these treatments and avoid potentially risky methods that aren’t backed by science.
Potential alternative treatments requiring more conclusive research include:
gluten-free, casein-free diet
omega-3 fatty acids
vitamin B-6 and magnesium combined
BOOKS THAT EFFECTIVELY PORTRAY ASD
Same but Different: Teen Life on the Autism Express
by Holly Robinson Peete, Ryan Elizabeth Peete, and RJ Peete
"Being a teen is hard enough. But when you have autism--or when your sibling is struggling with the condition--life can be a topsy-turvy ride. What happens when you come face-to-face with dating, parties, sports, body changes, school, and kids who just don’t get you? Where do you turn when your sibling with autism is the butt of jokes, the victim of misunderstood social cues, and the one everyone thinks is weird? Through alternating narratives based on their own lives, Ryan Elizabeth Peete and her twin brother, RJ, who has autism, bravely and honestly reveal what it means to be a teen living with the disorder. With insight and humor, Same But Different explores the many aspects of teen autism, while daring to address issues and feelings nobody talks about. This powerfully rendered, timely book is the only one of its kind. It paints an important story of hope for teens and families living with autism—and lets us see that everybody’s unique rhythm is worth dancing to."
A Friend for Henry
by Jenn Bailey and Mika Song
"In Classroom Six, second left down the hall, Henry has been on the lookout for a friend. A friend who shares. A friend who listens. Maybe even a friend who likes things to stay the same and all in order, as Henry does. But on a day full of too close and too loud, when nothing seems to go right, will Henry ever find a friend—or will a friend find him? A story from the perspective of a boy on the autism spectrum."
Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's
by John Elder Robison
"Look Me in the Eye is the moving, darkly funny story of growing up with Asperger’s at a time when the diagnosis simply didn’t exist. A born storyteller, Robison takes you inside the head of a boy whom teachers and other adults regarded as “defective,” who could not avail himself of KISS’s endless supply of groupies, and who still has a peculiar aversion to using people’s given names (he calls his wife “Unit Two”). He also provides a fascinating reverse angle on the younger brother he left at the mercy of their nutty parents—the boy who would later change his name to Augusten Burroughs and write the bestselling memoir Running with Scissors.
Ultimately, this is the story of Robison’s journey from his world into ours, and his new life as a husband, father, and successful small business owner—repairing his beloved high-end automobiles. It’s a strange, sly, indelible account—sometimes alien, yet always deeply human."
CELEBRITIES WHO ADVOCATE
"I am a 44-year old autistic woman who has a successful international career designing livestock equipment. I completed my Ph.D. in Animal Science at the University of Illinois in Urbana and I am now an Assistant Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. Early intervention at age 2 1/2 helped me overcome my handicap.
Two of the subjects covered in this chapter are the frustration of not being able to speak and sensory problems. My senses were oversensitive to loud noise and touch. Loud noise hurt my ears and I withdrew from touch to avoid over-whelming sensation.
I built a squeezing machine which helped me to calm my nerves and to tolerate touching. At puberty, horrible anxiety “nerve” attacks started and they became worse with age. Antidepressant medication relieved the anxiety. In the last section of the chapter directing my fixations into constructive activities and a career will be discussed along with the importance of a mentor. My skill and deficit areas are covered in detail. All my thinking is visual, like videos played in my imagination. Even abstract concepts such as getting along with other people are visualized through the use of door imagery."
"But Hannah, who was diagnosed with autism as a child and suffered from “debilitating shyness” as a result of the disorder, says the best thing in her life now is growing comfortable in her own skin."